Exotic Festivals February 2018 Listings

Spring Lantern Festival, China

Exotic Festivals February: The Spring Lantern Festival with a few fireworks at the end of Chinese New Year Celebrations.

World Heritage Festival dates and information

These listings are mostly about odd events in Exotic Places. Generally we do not list European or American festivals here – unless they are exceptionally alien!

Calendar Dates are sometimes unconfirmed and occasionally unreliable, so check before booking. TBC/A = To Be Confirmed/Announced

February 2018

n. b. For several great European carnivals see February in European Festivals

2 – 18 February

PERU, Candelaria Festival (Virgen de la Candelaria) in Puno, not a pretty city but with amazing surroundings such as Lake Titicaca and the Altiplano. This colourful, local event offers vigorous dancing, music, masks and insane fireworks. And Cusco’s not far by splendid train ride.

5 January – 25 February
Beyond Chinese
New Year
16 Feb. 2018

CHINA, Harbin Ice Festival & Chinese New Year – including magnificent, monstrous illuminated ice sculptures and icy sports. Beware extreme cold, averaging -16C and possibly down to -38C! China Map Harbin Festival Pictures

31 January
(Full moon in late Jan or early Feb)

INDIA, Madurai Float Festival – originated in the 17th century held in Madurai, the oldest city in Tamil Nadu on the first night of the full moon. Incredible temples and spectacular floats, worshippers dressed in red and yellow dance around and spray coloured water on the crowds.

31 January
Procession starts night before the full moon during Jan/Feb.

MALAYSIA, Thaipusam (also known as Murugan Festival),  a celebration of the birth of god Murugan, to the Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur over 8 hours – a massive and bizarre Hindu procession into the caves, with many penitents pierced by hooks and skewers through various body parts. Similarly in Singapore on the same day but no major piercings allowed there. Malaysia Travel Guide, Batu Caves photos and more information

2, 4, 16, 22, 31 January
and 13 February
in Allahabad
A bigger ‘Ardh Kumbh Mela’
will be held in 2019.

INDIA, Kumbh Mela, the prime Hindu pilgrimage destination with worshippers gathering once every 3 years at one of these four places to take a sacred bath.
In rotation: the banks of the Godavari river in Nasik; the Kshipra river in Ujjain; The River Ganges in Haridwar; the Sangam of Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad. This is the greatest of all Exotic Festivals February, not only the biggest religious assembly but also recorded as the the largest peaceful human gathering in 2013 with 100 million visitors, though pilgrim stampedes in India are not uncommon, with large numbers of fatalities. India Travel Guide

Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, India, Exotic Festivals February

Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, India. Photo Coupdoeil.

10 – 13 February
(40 days before Easter)

BOLIVIA, Carnaval de Oruro – Bolivia’s largest annual event with a blend of Andean tradition and Christianity, highlighted by a massive parade lasting 20 hours and the famous ‘La Diablada’ or Dance of the Devils. Now a UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity.

2 – 4 February
(the parade starts in the morning of

THAILAND, Chiang Mai Flower Festival, at Nong Buak Hat Park in Chiang Mai. A must for floraphiles, this interesting city is bedecked by thousands of flowers and plants, including 1, 000 species of orchid. Parades with floats, beauty queens and sculptures too. Thailand Guide, Thailand Map

29 – 31 January

INDIA, Desert Festival, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan – touristy but terrific location near the Disneyesque town of Jaisalmer under a full moon. Fire dancing, music, culture displays, local contests such as Mr. Desert and turban tying challenge and lots of camels. Nearest airport is Jodhpur, 280kms away.

1 – 4 February

MALI, Festival on the Niger (Festival sur le Niger), held in Ségou this is an annual heritage celebration with both traditional and contemporary music, puppetry, dance, arts and boat races on the river. See also Festival of Masks and Puppets (Festival des Masques et Marionettes) in Markala.

2 – 12 February

PERU, Candelaria Festival (Virgen de la Candelaria) in Puno, not a pretty city but with amazing surroundings such as Lake Titicaca and the Altiplano. This colourful, local event offers vigorous dancing, music, masks and insane fireworks. And Cusco’s not far by splendid train ride.

5 – 12 February
Second week of February for
1 week

JAPAN, Hokkaido island, Sapporo City, Sapporo Snow Festival – we were very disappointed by the 2017 event and changed our mind about the value of this in a list of best Exotic Festivals February. We now suggest you go elsewhere – such as Harbin in China –  or enjoy winter sports at Niseko.

Sapporo snow festival, ice whale, Hokkaido,Japan, Exotic Festivals February

The Sapporo snow festival,  the only display that impressed us, an ice whale home, Hokkaido, Japan

10 – 13 February

INDIA, Goa Carnival. An Indo-Latin fusion of music, float parades, the famous ‘Red and Black dance’ and wild revelry.

Late January – early February

SAUDI ARABIA, Jenadriyah National Festival – a heritage and culture festival held annually for 2 weeks, 45km from Riyadh city. It is run by the National Guard under the command of the Crown Prince and involves traditional music, folk dancing and a spectacular camel race. This is a rare chance to see the colourful culture of this closed kingdom – if you can get a tourist visa (entry probably only allowed as part of a tour group).

12 – 13 February

TRINIDAD, Carnival, (an island in the Caribbean) where the carnival is on the street and mad in the nicest possible way, though if you want a nice beach too you’ll have to nip over to neighbouring Tobago.

12 – 18 February
(the last week before Great

RUSSIA, Maslenitsa (known as Butter Week or Pancake Week), a pagan celebration, equivalent to Mardi Gras and Carnival, being stuffed yourself with pancakes as festive treat.

15 – 21 February
From New year’s Eve

CHINA, New Year Holiday, Parade and Spring Festival (Spring Golden week), nationwide but especially vibrant in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui East as psychedelia hits the ‘scrapers and parades hit the streets. . . this is the best Chinese celebration, with floats, musicians, dancers, explosions and dragons galore. Hong Kong Guide

16 February
(Each year, Tet falls between 19 Jan and 20 Feb)

VIETNAM Tet Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year) Festival, nationwide – for one week, the most important annual event of the country and a wild and noisy time is had by all. Vietnam Travel Guide, Vietnam Pictures

16 February
the first day of the 1st month of Tibetan Calendar

TIBET, Losar (Tibetan New Year) nationwide. An extremely colourful occasion with stunning traditional costumes worn by monks and many fascinating rituals, though beware the altitude and cold. The celebration starts the day before New year’s Eve and lasts 3 to 15 days. Tibet Guide

7 – 13 February

MEXICO, Carnival, nationwide but especially Veracruz, Cozumel, Mazatlan and two towns near Mexico City – Huejotzingo and Tepoztlan – huge, wild party time with dance, music, masks, mock battles and parades. Mexico Travel Guide

9 – 13 Feb
1 – 5 March 2019
21 – 25 Feb 2020

8 – 15 February

BRAZIL, Rio Carnival – the biggest show on Earth, it’s wild spectacle for sure, but not in the street – it’s in a huge stadium and thus not so involving; it’s also expensive and caution is needed outside. So perhaps try carnivals in other cities which will be almost as wild but a lot more user friendly, touchy/feely – such as Salvador and Olinda in Brazil’s north-east, both beautiful, lively and with good beaches nearby or even try Trinidad (island) see below. Brazil Travel, Rio de Janeiro Pictures

19 – 24 February
25 – 27 February

BHUTAN, Punakha, Tsechu and Drubchen Festival– a magnificent and kaleidoscopic festival held in a spectacular location in the Himalayas, with hundreds of locals gathering to see the monks dressed in vivid robes performing masked ritual prayers and dances. Tsechu is a religious celebration in honour of Padmasambhava, the great Nyingmapa scholar who was born from a lotus flower.

17 February
Third Saturday
of February
every year

JAPAN, Naked Festival (Saidai-ji Hadaka Matsuri) in the night in Okayama Prefecture- Japan’s kookiest and nuttiest ritual dated back 500 years. A Shinto man strips off, is shaved completely then runs through the town while nine thousand semi-naked men in loin cloths try to touch him. Butt, butt. . .

20 – 26 February

INDIA, Khajuraho Dance Festival, an annual gathering of Indian classical dancers from all over the country as well as abroad at the staggeringly high porn temples in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2 March
(15th day of the Chinese New Year)
19 February 2019

CHINA, Spring Lantern Festival, nationwide, celebrating the end of the Chinese New Year period. Also known as Yuanxiao or Shangyuan Festival.
Lanterns – many of strange design and colour – are lit and carried all over China. People all ages enjoy not just watching lanterns but fireworks, folk dancing, eating yuanxiao, rice dumpling balls stuffed with varied fillings and also the opportunity of young boys and girls to have a fun together as it regarded as Chinese Valentine’s day!

2 March
(15th day of the Chinese New Year)
19 February 2019

TAIWAN, Lantern Festival, nationwide, celebrating the last day of the Chinese New Year Holiday. Among the many activities, thousands of sky lanterns lighting up over the Pingxi District and the firecrackers ceremony in Wumiao Temple in Yanshui District are the two most significant events.

22 February
(Same day every year)

EGYPT, Abu Simbel Festival- 2 days a year (also 22 October) when the light is just right to illuminate the statues of Ramses, Ra and Amun, in this incredible temple complex. Just you and 1, 000 other tourists!

Traditionally held in February
but will hold in March  2018.

NIGERIA, Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival (sometimes spelt Arugungu), a wild fishing contest in the small town of Argungu by Sokoto River in the northwestern state of Kebbi.
Thousands of men and boys jump into the water to catch fish and the biggest fish caught will be presented to the Sultan, while others enjoy singing, dancing, drinking, canoe racing and more. Today it attractsseveral hundred thousands of visitors both locals and from abroad as well as participating fishermen.